Oregon leaders declare 90-day state of emergency in downtown Portland to address fentanyl crisis

Oregon leaders declare 90-day state of emergency in downtown Portland to address fentanyl crisis

Oregon leaders joined forces to declare a 90-day state of emergency in downtown Portland, funneling resources into fighting the city’s deadly fentanyl crisis.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler each made an emergency declaration to address the public health and public safety crisis in Portland’s Central City, citing overdoses, deaths and fear driven by fentanyl use, according to a Tuesday press release.

“Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Kotek said in the release.

Oregon voters passed Measure 110 in 2020, which decriminalized some use of hard-drugs, including fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. The measure has received criticism, as opioid overdose deaths steadily climbed since.

Opioid overdose deaths in the state increased from 280 in 2019 to 956 in 2022, according to the state’s data.

Nearly 70,000 people in the US died of drug overdoses that involved fentanyl in 2021, almost a four-fold increase over five years, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last spring. Fentanyl is significantly more likely to be involved in a deadly overdose than other common drugs, according to the CDC.

Experts say reversing the trends in overdose deaths really depends on broader access to and use of treatments for opioid use disorder.

The emergency declarations were recommended by a Portland Central City Task Force last year.

“We are all in this together,” Kotek, a Democrat, said in the release. “The next 90 days will yield unprecedented collaboration and focused resources targeting fentanyl and provide a roadmap for next steps.”

The emergency order allows the city, state and county to allocate resources to the response and stand up a command center in the central city.

The effort will include two public health campaigns and increased outreach to get people into treatment, recovery and housing services. The release also cited the “continued missions between the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police to hold individuals selling the drug accountable.”

The command center will share and report data on the impacts of fentanyl in downtown and use the data to respond to “acute needs and gaps in service,” the release said.

“We are acting with shared leadership to take urgent action today to respond to the very human toll fentanyl takes in our community, including overdoses, fatalities and day-to-day suffering, and the fear so many families are experiencing as a result,” Pederson said in the release.

Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.